South African news sites don’t seem to be winning the fight against troll-like opinions: The Daily Maverick is the latest to announce it’s doing away with comments sections on all articles.
The publication announced this today in an editorial article titled, “We tried. We really, really did” which explains that after trying as best as it could to promote free speech on the platform, the site has been left with no choice but to make this decision.
“Over the past six years, we have worked painstakingly hard to build a legacy brand of which we could be proud. Unfortunately, our comments section is tarnishing that brand,” the article reads.
The team said the comments section will remain suspended while it works out a way to either moderate hate speech, or come up with a solution that fosters genuine engagement.
News24, whose comments section was infamous for hate speech, particularly against race, was the first major online publication to do away with it altogether last year and was followed not long after by IOL.
While it sounds relatively simple to find a way to balance comment sections in such a way as to do away with hate speech without infringing on people’s right to free speech, it’s easier said than done: the boundaries between what differentiates one from the other are often blurred, which is likely why News24 and IOL opted to close theirs indefinitely.
In the meantime, Daily Maverick said it will going old school and creating a “Letters to the Editor” column to be published daily on its home page, which will be curated so as to publish “the most coherent and cogently argued thoughts emailed to the editors” by readers.
The Daily Maverick editorial team ended with the following: “To the people who offered constructive comments and contributed great ideas, thank you very much for your contribution to making Daily Maverick South Africa’s premier daily news and opinion brand. Please keep talking to us.”